Without Embiid, 76ers snap Miami’s 13-game winning streak
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Following the short-handed 76ers’ unlikely victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday night, Joel Embiid calmly chatted with fans at center court. There was no dancing this time, but no one would’ve blamed Embiid if he busted a few celebratory moves like he did during a Meek Mill concert the previous night.
Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and Dario Saric each scored 19 points to lead Philadelphia to a 117-109 victory over Miami, snapping the Heat’s winning streak at 13 games.
Goran Dragic had 30 points for the Heat, whose winning streak was the longest in the NBA this season, the third-best in team history and tops in league history by a sub-.500 team. Miami, which fell 1 ½ games back of idle Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, hadn’t lost since Jan. 13 at Milwaukee.
Embiid missed his ninth straight game and 12th in the last 13 due to a bone bruise on his left knee. Team president Bryan Colangelo also revealed before the game that Embiid has a slightly torn meniscus in the same knee. Colangelo said he was disappointed that the sidelined Embiid was caught on video dancing shirtless on stage at a Meek Mill concert.
Philadelphia also was without big man Jahlil Okafor as coach Brett Brown elected to sit him in light of trade rumors that swirled prior to the game.
The Embiid story was the off-court drama of the day. His teammates provided the on-court theatrics. Perhaps smarting after a 125-102 drubbing at Miami a week earlier, the 76ers played inspired basketball with their Rookie of the Year candidate watching.
“I didn’t like what I saw in Miami,” Brown said of the Feb. 4 defeat. “It was distasteful and represented nothing that we were and what we are trying to grow to in relation to defense.”
James Johnson’s three-point play with 4:44 left cut it to 100-96 but Philadelphia scored 10 of the next 11 points, capped by T.J. McConnell’s three-point play that made it 110-97 with 3:04 left.
Noel put an exclamation point on the Sixers’ second straight victory with an alley-oop dunk off a feed from McConnell with 27 seconds to play.
James Johnson matched his season high with 26, Tyler Johnson scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and 19 rebounds for Miami.
“They were relentless,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They had us on our heels from the tip all the way to the end. They never let up.”
Heat: Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game. . The teams wrap up their four-game season series on March 1 in Miami. The host 76ers won 101-94 on Nov. 21, and the Heat routed Philadelphia 125-102 Feb. 4 in Miami. ... The Heat had 19 turnovers and 15 assists.
76ers: Colangelo said it was unlikely that Embiid would play in either of the team’s two remaining games before the All-Star break, Monday at Charlotte and Wednesday at Boston. He added that it was “very unlikely” that Embiid, who was selected to participate in the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, would participate in All-Star festivities. ... Richaun Holmes returned to the lineup after missing two consecutive games due to the flu. Holmes had six points and four rebounds.
Spoelstra took little solace in winning 13 straight games.
“It’s never been about the streak,” he said. “It’s not going to be about the streak now. We have a very important game Monday. We have to rest up and get back to our game. This proved we can’t win this way.”
Embiid’s absence came one night after cellphone video captured him dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert in Philadelphia.
The video caused a mini firestorm in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters at Saturday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, the 22-year-old rookie said his dancing was all about having fun.
“Meek invited me to the stage,” Embiid said. “I had fun. That’s what I’m about, just enjoying life.”
With a logjam at center, Okafor has been rumored to be traded for weeks. The talks apparently heated up so much that Brown felt it in the best interest of the team and Okafor to sit the second-year center.
“As the All-Star break gets closer, possible deals have more of a chance,” Brown said. “Although speculation is rampant all throughout stuff, you learn as the deadline gets closer, the reality that something could happen goes to a higher level.”
Asked if he would continue to sit Okafor while rumors swirl, Brown said, “It’s still fluid but if you see me not play him, that’s probably the reason.”
Heat: Host Orlando on Monday night.
76ers: At Charlotte on Monday night.